Sunday, December 26, 2010

Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Food

Red Hot Chili Peppers, the band...

Taste the Pain, or might I say, feel the burn. Not Dani California, but the California Anaheim Pepper. Peppers are the topic for this posting, the food kind, though I will try to plug as much Red Hot Chili Peppers, the band, into it as much as possible. Why? Because it just seems fitting.

Chili Pepper Display in Houston, Texas

By the Way, I have always been a fan of the red hot chili peppers, in fact, my love for them dates back to 1983. Which just so happens to be the same year that a specific American alternative rock band with a similar name formed Out in L.A.. But Hey, Nevermind all of this jazz, let's Buckle Down here and really get into talking about peppers. In addition to their many other uses outside of the culinary field, They're Red Hot in my daily food choices.

Around the World, throughout the history of mankind, peppers have been used for other things other than the culinary field. From medicine, psychology, weaponry, defense, crop and food, defense, decoration, etc.

Thanks to many years of science innovation, the 21st Century has brought us to a place where we can not only enjoy many of things, but we can also understand why it is that we do enjoy those things.  Chili peppers have been used by civilizations throughout the history of mankind. Even though it wasn't until the 1800's did we learn what it is that can make these little peppers so hot.  What It Is that makes these little fruits make you want to Get Up and Jump and scream out Mercy Mercy is the capsaicin and a couple of other chemicals, collectively know as capsaicinoids.

The heat level in peppers ranges from mild or non-existent, or a Minor Thing, to scorching Fire, reminiscent of a Skinny Sweaty Man hanging out On Mercury.  Personally, I tend to Fight Like a Brave man So Much I find myself Naked In the Rain with a Million Miles of Water trying to cool down. The heat in these peppers are measured by a Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) that ranges from 0 to 16,000,000! Bell peppers hanging out down low on that scale and moving upwards for more spicier peppers, habaneros, for example.

File:Chiltepin mexico sonora.jpg
Tepin Pepper

I remember when I was younger, Me and My Friends were hanging out having a couple of cold beers and enjoying the Time. My Friends thought it would be fun to Torture Me by having me try a couple of peppers native to the south regions of the United States called a Tepin Pepper, or to my friends and I, the Wild Turkey Pepper. If You Have To Ask, let's just say that pepper can Knock Me Down and Easily give me a Deep Kick in the stomach. Though I found it Hard To Concentrate and it was One Hot Minute of my life with a Funny Face, on the Otherside I felt this Transcending feeling of endorphins running through my veins. By The Way, you know I Could Have Lied and spoke of How Strong I was but my Tear could Give It AwaySomeone told me I could Make It Feel Better, say, If a had some Snow from an Eskimo or a Body of Water. Caution, my experience may by like yours. You may feel Warped or left with quite a Tearjerker. By The Way, those endorphins may take you to Higher Ground or  just leave around some various Scar Tissue, either way, still highly recommended. I Can't Stop making all of these Red Hot Chili Pepper references!

But in reality folks, try to add some spice in your meals at home. Start experimenting with hot peppers! Not only will your taste buds appreciate it, but will your body.  There are some great health advantages to eating hot peppers.  You don't have to start flaming hot, but start somewhere and build on it.  You will feel refreshed and revived.

This post really started out to be a serious one, but I just had too much fun with the Red Hot Chili Pepper references in this one for my own good!  Here is a list of peppers that I have cultivated and used in the kitchen that I would suggest trying out in your dishes. Ranging from mild to hot:

Bell, Anaheim, Poblano, Jalepeno, Paprika, Serrano, Cayenne, Tabasco, Chiltepin (Tepin), Pequin, Habanero, Scotch Bonnet, Red Savina Habanero, Naga Jolokia (Ghost Chili that will have you doing an American Ghost Dance)

Stay Spicy Folks,

Monday, December 13, 2010

Fried Pork Skins

Oh how the smell of porcine, pork that is, runs through a house faster than a 4 year old on Christmas Day. I'm talking about cooking pork skins, pork rinds, chicharrones, etc.  I grew up in a West Texas town, nowhere close to hog farming operations. Back in that day though, I raised hogs, or pigs that is, for the purpose of show.  Show hogs, or what the industry has done to them, is a whole different story. But, my love for hogs goes way back, take a look at my household decorations and you will get a good idea how much I love hogs.

In current days, most people think of pork as chops, hams, sausage, and bacon.  As a butcher, I could suggest many other of great cut and ideas to fill your dinner table.  As a sustainable environmentalist, I can think of all of the parts to use, and how to use them well.  That brings us to pork skin.

Pork skins have been used for thousands of years by many people to satisfy the needs of the community.  Other than food needs, the use of pigskin has been used for non-edible applications, take the old American football for example.  But when you talk about pork skins with me, I think food.  In many parts of the world, pig skins have been known to feed the people.  Being originally from Texas, chicharrones was a major part of a growing kids diet, or at least for the kid who didn't like candy.

I remember back in high school, my love for fried pork skins really emerged.  I was working as a fence builder during the summer outside of Bangs, Texas. Scorching days, out in the scorching pasture, building fence was not fun, but it taught me about a hard day's work, and a hard day's play.  My employer was a FFA buddy's father, a roughneck by trade, a beer drinker by day.  We would get done building the fence around telecommunication towers and start our long trip back to Abilene at the end of the day.  Each day was different, but we all looked forward to pulling into the local Allsup's convenience store at days end, picking up a cold 30 pack of Keystone Light and a couple of bags of spicy fried pork skins.  By far, a healthy diet one must presume. Ten years later, that love for pork skins continues, but the beer has improved much.

Fried pork skins are very easy to make at home, and the extra seasonings are limitless.  Go to your local butcher, chances are, you can get your hands on fresh pork skins for really cheap. Once you get those skins home, cut into 2x2 inch squares and trim off any extra fat that may be attached to the skin and sprinkle with a light layer of salt. Pre-heat your oven for 250 degrees on bake.  Spread the salted skins in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for around 2 hours or until the remaining fat softens up and starts to render.  At this time, remove the skins and let cool.  Once able to handle, use a knife and scrape any remaining fat from the skins.  Pre-heat a deep fryer, or heat a pan 1/3 full with cooking oil on medium high heat.  Once oil is hot, deep fry the skins until they puff up, which may take anywhere from 3-5 minutes depending on oil temperature.  Once the skins have puffed up, remove from oil and sprinkle generously with course Kosher salt and/or and extra seasonings to add the extra kick! Store any unused portions in a resealable plastic bag to keep fresh.

Play around with flavors, suggestions that I have tried or heard that work well are BBQ, Spicy, Cajun, Lime and Salt, Sea Salt and Vinegar, and Cracked Black Pepper and Salt.  Try them all out!

Hog Aficionado,

Monday, December 06, 2010

St. Adrian's Missing and Monte Cubano

Sorry it has been awhile folks, busy varying holiday seasons has this butcher/caterer working double time! Promise I will keep trying to improve on my post frequency. But it's not about quantity, but quality right?

We have a code red emergency at the house! St. Adrian, the Patron Saint of Butchers, has gone missing! He is what holds not only this household together, but the binding proteins in the meat.  So be on a look out for this guy. If you see him, please help him find his way back home for the holidays!

On a lighter note, I promised that I would include recipes on this blog also. So, I present to you, the Monte Cubano, or at least my version of it!  This is a great recipe to help with those turkey leftovers throughout the season.  The original recipe can be found from Epicurious here:

Here is where my recipe was different. For the bread, I went with a lighter note and used whole grain wheat. I am not a huge mustard fan, but when I do use it, I go all out.  I used a Grey Poupon Mustard to really add a little kick and really hone into that spicy Cuban side of me.  Instead of dill pickle rounds, I used Pleasant Valley Farms' Organic Sweet Relish out of Mt. Vernon, Washington. For meat choices I went strictly with the sliced turkey leftovers from last night's umpteenth turkey dinner. Cheese selection went to a Colby Jack. Everything else was straight from the original recipe. Preparation and cooking method was straight from the recipe also.

Verdict... 2.5/5.0.  I know, I didn't follow the original recipe exact, but after trying it and reading some of the reviews, I came to the exact conclusion. First, leave out the salt in the recipe.  Between the meats, pickles, and mustard, you already have plenty of salt, something we should all watch anyways.  Secondly, I wouldn't use the egg wash bath, really makes for a bread that is a little bit soggy.  Stick with a light buttered bread and pan fry as is. Other than that, my version really turned out with great flavor, just a little to soft for me for a fried sandwich.

So, try out the recipe! Add your own flare, enjoy, and then let me know how it turned out for you!


Thursday, September 30, 2010

Them Some Tasty French Fries!

I love French Fries, fries for short, just as the next human being. Personally, I tend to lean towards Burger King's version. I love the crispiness and flavor all in one. That brings me to today's post. Them are some tasty fries!

Before the 1990 criticism of McDonalds in regard to the amount of cholesterol in their fries, they used a combination of 7% cottonseed oil and 93% beef tallow in their deep fryers. The criticism led to a monumental change, to 100% pure vegetable oil. Here's the catch though, they still tasted similar!

Flavoring! Both natural and artificial, can be found in nearly every processed food and beverage that we ingest. Why? Because processed food just doesn't taste as good as the original form of it. But with flavor additives, well, it just plain tastes better than the original.

The flavoring industry is massive, just take a look at signs for it next time you look at the ingredients of any processed food or beverage. Natural additives, artificial flavors, natural flavors, etc. They're there, no fooling the educated. Many fast food restaurants add these to menu items to create brand loyalty and comfort food syndrome. You know, that craving for a certain taste.

So are flavorings bad? As long as they are GRAS, generally recognized as safe, then no, not from a health standpoint. But why ingest foods that need chemicals to revive flavor compounds when you can get that same flavor from natural, fresh food choices? Chances are, you will maintain a healthier diet and save money if you choose the natural, fresh food route.

Tell me how you feel about these flavor compounds? Great flavor, less filling? Food engineering at it's worst?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Welcome, Again.

I started thinking about this blog of mine the other day. In the past, I have not used this as a good source of my comments or suggestions, mainly using other sources of social media forums. But hopefully, this is all going to change!

If you are a regular of mine, you probably already know my story, what I do, what I think, etc., and if you have not noticed already, I have done a couple of design changes. For those new to my blog, let me give you a brief introduction.

I have spent my whole life somehow involved with agriculture it seems. I have a limited amount of experience in the production side of things except for beef and pork production. Most of my experience is in the processing of meat and produce. In high school I was very interested in show pigs and meat science. This interest in meat science sent me to Texas A&M University, where in December of 2005 I graduated with a BS in Animal Science. My focus in school was in meat science, poultry science, and food science. Upon graduating, I spent a few years working for both the corporate beef packing industry and the corporate beef feeding industry. Both experiences taught me many valuable lessons, of which, maybe we will get into later. I finally got tired of the corporate agriculture setting so I left. That gets me here. I currently reside in Seattle, Washington where I work as a butcher for a local butcher shop that prides itself in selling local, farm-raised, high quality meats and meat products.

Outside of my education and career experience, I enjoy the outdoors. I enjoy cooking and finding fresh local alternatives to the food system. Our family shares a great love for cooking outdoors! BBQing, smoking, grilling etc. I come from a line of BBQers and grillers. In fact, our family is in the process of putting together our own BBQ restaurant.

If you didnt notice it already, please take the poll that is located at the top of the page. I am going to do monthly polls for now, and make an informative post about the results.

Tell your family, friends, co-workers, and everyone you know about the blog. I plan to discuss things relating around smoking, grilling, food choices, agriculture related issues, and maybe even a recipe now and again. I enjoy feedback, so please, do not hesitate to leave a response. Also if there is a topic that fits in that you would like for me to cover please let me know.

Until we chat again you can find me on Facebook and Twitter!